Growing up in New York City, I remember seeing certain cool older girls rock Clarks Wallabees (Wu-Tang’s then footwear of choice) and thinking that if I only had a pair, I might be kind of legit. Clarks have been around forever, 185 years to be exact, a family-owned company based out of Somerset, England. In Jamaica, the shoes are a long-standing fashion staple; Vybz Kartel, who claims to own over 50 pairs, put the kicks back on the map with his song titled, you guessed it, “Clarks.” With the chorus, Everybody haffi ask weh mi get mi Clarks/ Di leather hard, di suede soft, toothbrush get out di dust fast, the track reportedly caused a massive upswing in demand for the Original heritage range. Vendors in Kingston doubled their prices. This was just the latest chapter in the country’s embrace of the shoe brand, though. “Clarks is as much a part of the Jamaican culture as ackee and saltfish and roast breadfruit, I swear to you,” Kartel once told The Guardian. “Policemen wear it, gangsters wear it. Big men wear it to their work. Schoolchildren wear it to school.”
Tapping into the renewed interest, DJ Al Fingers is set to release the book Clarks in Jamaica, a visual account of the Island’s love affair with the shoes. “This book explores how footwear made by a Quaker firm in the small, quiet, English village of Street, Somerset, came to be the ‘baddest’ shoes in Jamaica.” All of the new images are by Mark Read, the text by Al Fingers, with lots of previously unseen archival material and interviews with some legends of reggae. We’ll be patiently waiting till October to get a hold of this, but for now here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come.